Financial Toxicity is a term used to describe problems a patient has related to the cost of medical care. Not having health insurance or having a lot of costs for medical care not covered by health insurance can cause financial problems and may lead to debt and bankruptcy. Financial toxicity can also affect a patient’s quality of life and access to medical care. The costs associated with cancer care can be staggering, in 2014 it was reported that cancer patients paid more than $4 billion out of pocket in cancer related expenses.
What are the factors contributing to cancer costs?
There is no one size fits all cancer treatment, but there are several consistent factors that contribute to a patients overall costs for their care. They are:
- Insurance status/type of insurance: including co-pays, deductibles, premiums, co-insurance, out of pocket max, prescription plans
- Treatment plan : the type of treatment and how much treatment the patient receives
- Geographic location: Costs vary based on where the patient lives and how many providers are available in that area
- Treatment Setting: Costs can differ depending on whether care is delivered in a hospital, clinic, or physician’s office
What are the indirect costs of cancer?
There are many indirect costs associated with cancer that are both significant and problematic for cancer patients and their families. Some include:
· Job loss
· Lodging near treatment
· Lost work hours and income
· Wigs or other cosmetic items to address side effects
· Costs for special food
· Transportation to medical appointments and the pharmacy
· Caregiver costs
What are the resources available for cancer patients to deal with financial toxicity?
From the moment someone receives a cancer diagnosis, their world can start to spin. It’s important to have an advocate, which is why MCF has invested more than $1.8 million since 2015 to increase the number of patient navigators across the state. A patient navigator helps guide patients through their diagnosis and can connect patients and caregivers to financial resources that may be available.
Through our conversations across the state about cancer in Maine, we found that not only is access to transportation a barrier for patients, but also that transportation contributes to financial toxicity in Maine cancer patients. Last year, MCF invested $150,000 in transportation grants around the state to help patients get to the treatment that they need.
In addition to talking to your Patient Navigator, we also recommend talking with your financial institution about your options.
What can we do?
Preventing cancer in the first place, or detecting it early, is the best way to reduce the many costs associated with cancer treatment. We are determined to have a cancer-free Maine for us all, which is why we are investing in the most promising and effective cancer fighting programs across the state. Together with your support, we are preventing cancer before it starts, detecting cancer early when it is more treatable and beatable, and providing those with a diagnosis access to the best quality care.